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"The Wonderful World of Alpacas"

These animals have so much to offer everyone. Not only do we feel great around them, or even the fact that they have boosted incomes and helped us save at tax time, but also in the way they make us look at life a bit differently. A calming more reflective lifestyle ensues. .

A little History:

Archaeologists have discovered a great deal of alpaca fiber goods from graves and religious sites predating the Inca Empire in South America... a true testament to the durability of alpaca fiber.

A cherished treasure of the ancient Incan civilization, Alpacas are found in the high Altiplano region of the Andes where Chile, Peru and Bolivia meet.

Alpacas are a member of the camelid family and are close relatives to camels, llamas, vicunas, and guanacos. There are two types of alpacas: the Huacaya (wa-kai-a) which is the most common type of Alpaca with a dense and highly crimped fleece that stands straight off of the body much like a sheep and the Suri (sur-ry) which has a longer staple length and has fiber which is straighter with less crimp and is extremely soft and lustrous.

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Quick Stats:

The weight range for alpacas is between 140 and 220 lb. with the average male being around 180 lb. with head height around 5 feet.

Like other ruminants, they chew their cud which is regurgitated or partially digested food.

Yes, alpacas do spit as do all camelids when threatened or when their “space” is invaded by other alpacas. Occasionally they will spit on people but most of the time it is just a case of a human being in the path of two alpacas having a nasty conversation.

The life span in South America is around 18 years but with a better diet in the US they are typically exceeding 20 years.

Alpacas have no teeth on top, instead they have a dental pad and do not bite.

They have soft padded, earth-friendly feet, a non-aggressive personality and can be easily transported. .

Alpacas were first imported to the United States in 1984, but are no longer aloud to be imported.

Alpaca Glossary

bred female
- A pregnant alpaca.

Cria - A baby alpaca, usually younger than 5 months.

Dam
- An alpacas mother.

Fiber
- The fleece of an alpaca.

Huacaya
- (wa-kai-a) A type of alpaca with fine fiber and a woolly appearance.

Fiber quality male - A male alpaca whose genetic characteristics are not worthy of breeding.

Sire or herdsire - An alpacas father, or a male alpaca with the genetic characteristics desirable for breeding.

Suri - (sur-ry) A type of alpaca with tightly-wound fiber that looks like dreadlocks.

Tui Fleece - The first fleece shorn from an alpaca, always the finest fleece

weanling - A weaned alpaca, younger than 1 year.

Yearling - An alpaca between 1 and 2 years old.

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Temperament:

Alpacas are extremely mild mannered and easy to handle unless very threatened.

They are extremely intelligent and curious as evidenced by their complex social and communication behavior.

Alpacas are a herd animal and can not be kept by themselves, you must have at least two animals. They communicate by humming and with body posture. Generally they seem to humm more if they are for some reason uneasy or unsure about something, or when they are curious about something, like a new person, or animal on the farm.

Alpacas are a “prey” species meaning they have natural predators, such as wild dogs, big cats, coyotes, etc. Speed, agility and the fact that their is safety in numbers are the alpacas only defense against such predators, hence the strong herding instinct.

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cimmeron and hehe

Birthing:

Most females, after reaching maturity at 18 months to 2 years will produce one cria a year throughout most of her life. Alpaca females tend to be extremely good and protective mothers. Twins are very rare.

Male alpacas reach sexual maturity at 2 1/2 to 3 years of age, and sometimes not until 4 years of age. Alpacas are induced ovulators and can be bred any time of the year.

Alpacas generally give birth during the day, I suspect it is instinctual, because it can get pretty cold in the Andies, brrrrr, and this would increase thier survival rate.

If they experience stress (poor diet, periods of extreme heat & humidity etc.), they can actually delay fetal development for up to another month or so.

Crias weigh between 13 and 22 lb.

Crias are typically weaned at around 6 months.

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Feed:

Because the alpaca's region of origin has limited forage, they are among the most efficient utilizers of food on earth.

Alpacas have soft padded feet making them gentle on your pastures. Also, their efficiency in digestion of forage allows one to graze between 5-10 alpacas an acre depending upon the quality of the forage

An adult will consume around 2 1/2 lb. of forage a day In the US, most breeders will supplement forage with a grain and mineral mix.


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General Care:

There is no need to groom or bath alpacas but they do need to have their toenails trimmed. We check the toenails every month when we give shots. This is also a good time to weigh your animals and do a body conditioning score. Body conditioning scores are done by running the palm of your hands along the backbone, letting your fingers press downward to the muscle, to feel the "lay of the land" so to speak. A good BCS is usually around a 5 (but that changes between people, given their perception of what a "5" is).

Alpacas should get their annual inoculations, and be de-wormed.  The Meningeal worm is a problem for alpacas in most states (any where you see white tailed deer). There are several good dewormers (consult with your vet to see what is best in your area and to the frequency of recommended inoculations)

Alpacas are shorn once a year (sometimes twice-depending on the humidity levels latter in the summer). You can expect to get any where from five to 10 pounds of fleece from a single animal. 


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The Barn:

Alpacas prefer outdoors to being cooped up in a barn so a three-sided shed is perfectly fine. It is most important that they have a source of shade and shelter from inclement weather, as well as clean water and fans during the dogs days of summer. Our barn serves many functions beyond our alpacas needs, as it is also an art studio.

Alpacas share a communal dung pile, and it seems once one goes they all line up behind the other to take their turn on the bean pile. Cleaning up after your alpaca is very easy, due to their digestive efficiency, their solid waste looks like large rabbit pellets, or black beans, and is primarily composed of indigestible fiber. This means, unlike other livestock, they are relatively smell free and their beans make fantastic fertilizer for flower and vegetable gardens. It is even mild enough to use on house plants.

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The Tax Advantage:

Deductible expenses, insurable, depreciable investments are just a few of the many ways you can save money while also taking part in one of the most exciting industries in the world.

For most of us this aspect of the business sealed the deal. An alpaca can typically be depreciated over a five-year span or 20% per year and Capital gains can be available on the sale of breeding animals and their offspring. Indeed, There are some very exciting new tax laws that directly affect the Alpaca Industry:  The Section 179 deduction was recently raised from $24,000 to $100,000. There have also been favorable changes in the treatment of the sale of long-term capital gains, and the additional 30% depreciation that took effect beginning September 11th, 2001 has been increased to 50%. Also keep in mind that alpacas are 100% insurable!!

Consult your tax advisor about these and other very important
new laws.

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